Eco Urinal Cartidges for Waterless Urinals – Watch out, they don’t give you what they advertise and what they do give you, doesn’t work

About a year and a half ago, after paying $45 for disposable waterless urinal cartridges that filled up, clogged, smelled horribly, one to many times, I decided to order the Eco Cartridge from EcoTechWater.  I had read about the Cartridges on several green building websites and how they functioned by using a plastic collapsible funnel that straightened out and drained when liquid was applied and then curled up and sealed off after the liquid drained away.  The idea was simple and logically made sense.  Unfortunately, this new cartridge, which had a lifetime warranty, had the potential to eat significantly into the never ending gravy train of people and companies that had to continually buy the $45 disposable filters from Falcon.  To understand the amount of money that was at stake, think about this: these waterless urinal cartridges really only last about 2 months in a commercial application, meaning that each installed urinal, and there are +100,000 now, was bringing in somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 a year into Falcon. Ecotech was selling their lifetime warrantied replacement for the Falcon cartridges for $159.  Lots of money was at stake.  Unfortunately, the big guy with the deep pockets won on the basis of clause in the plumbing code that essentially outlaws any moving parts in a plumbing trap(“no mechanical traps”).  So Ecotech had to stop selling their filters for replacement for Falcon and Sloan(who licensed the waterless urinal from Falcon) waterless urinals.  To read more about this lawsuit, go here: http://greensource.construction.com/news/080502Ecotech.asp

Now, I have always been a strong supporter of the little guy.  I don’t shop at Walmart(lousy social equity history, poor environmental record) and love shopping at Mom and Pop stores and Trader Joes.  I loved the idea of a little guy with a great idea and this seemed like the perfect company to support with my dollars and a great product to purchase.  So I filled out the form, payed my $159 plus shipping and waited for the solution to all of my problems.

Unfortunately, what I got was not at all what I ordered.  The company send me out a round piece of plastic with hole in it.  Attached to the hole was a 6″ long, 1/2″ diameter curved plastic J-trap that attached to the bottom of the plastic plate.  There was no explanation as to why I didn’t get what I ordered nor how this piece of plastic was better than what I had ordered. I was also delivered 6 green wax based plugs that looked vaguely similar, yet smaller than a standard urinal cake.  The inadequate directions stated that I needed to add one of these cakes, called EcoBugs, to the urinal every 3-4 weeks and that I could buy more of them for about $6 a piece.  These Ecobugs dissolved the uric salts that precipitate out of settling urine, resulting in the constant clogging of the Falcon cartridges and their subsequent necessary replacement.

Now, what I ordered was a lifetime warranty waterless urinal cartridge replacement that would need no replacement and really no maintenance and what I got was a completely different product that was going to cost me $110 bucks a year.  I called the company to find out why I didn’t get what I had ordered.  No answer, and messages were not returned.  I wrote emails, no response.  So, I tried using this replacement.  The EcoBug plugs lasted about 8 days each, the 1/2″ diameter trap started clogging about 6 weeks after the last Ecobugs were used, about 2 months into usage of the replacement EcoCartidge.  So I have now spent $36 in Ecobugs for just over 3 months usage of a waterless urinal located in a house with two males, 1 – 38 years old and the other 6 years old.  Flushing an old 7 gallon per flush toilet every time either of us urinated would not have cost us $36 in water in those three months.  Again I called EcoTech, no answer. Again I emailed, and again, no response.

So, trying to make good out of a bad situation, meaning my wife was tired of the whole downstairs of my house smelling like urine from a urinal that took 6 hours to drain, I removed the cartridge and literally scraped out the uric solids.  Yes, these deposits are common precipitates from urine and no I don’t eat to much iron in my diet.  I reinstalled the urinals and it worked for another month, then started clogging again.  I have repeated this process 5 times in the last year and a half and finally, the cartridge broke and I had to remove it by prying up on the edge of it with a knife.

I called Ecotech again and, yes, no response, until a week later, after two more calls, the CEO, T.E. “Terry” Janssen, CEO (Direct Line: 727-367-5395 (terry@ecotechwater.com) , called me directly.  He agreed to look at some pictures of the urinal after I told him what my experience with it.   Here are the pictures:

Clogged EcoUrinal Cartridge 

Broken EcoUrinal Cartridge

Broken EcoUrinal Cartridge

Clogged EcoUrinal Cartridge

I also asked him why I didn’t get the cartridge that was advertised on his website when I ordered the cartridge and he stated that it didn’t meet the plumbing code and they didn’t sell it anymore.  I then asked him why, over a year and a half later, their website still had the original cartridge that they cannot legally sell and have not been delivering for over a year and a half AND makes no mention of the plastic J-trap cartridge that they are sending out now(the one that costs $112 bucks a year in Ecobugs).  He said that they have been working on changing their website.  For reference, their website for the Eco Urinal Cartridge( http://www.ecourinalcartridge.com/default.html ), with the intro page, warranty page, contact page and installation page is a total of 4 pages long, oh, plus a one page order form.  I sensed something was amiss when a 4 page website takes over 1.5 years to change.

I sent Mr. Janssen the photos, and this was his response:

I have been in this business for a long time and have never seen a mess like this. There is no warranty issue here. If you want a check valve cartridge I may be able to find one and would be willing to sell it to you for $200.00 plus freight. If you want it send me or call me with credit card info.

Wow, so he is not willing to adhere to his lifetime warranty but he is willing to sell me a filter that is illegal to sell or install, for $200, 25% more than the first time I bought it, or tried to buy it.  I wrote him back asking him if he was kidding and telling him that to promise one thing and then send something completely different is not only false advertising, but it is fraud and that if I was not given the Cartridge that I originally purchased, I would report him to the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates interstate commerce. This was his response:

“Take your best shot you fucking pin head. Your web site is terrible.

THANK YOU
T.E. “Terry” Janssen, CEO
Direct Line: 727-367-5395

terry@ecotechwater.com

The moral of this story is this: don’t buy a waterless urinal someone comes up with a better solution to the expensive, plastic disposable cartridges  AND Don’t buy anything from this guy.

My  Solution: come up with a solution to this waterless urinal problem before the female family members of my house make me rip the waterless urinal off the wall and throw it away.


This entry was posted in Bluebird Residence, General Green Musings, Green Building Questions, Green Projects, Uncategorized, Water Conservation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Eco Urinal Cartidges for Waterless Urinals – Watch out, they don’t give you what they advertise and what they do give you, doesn’t work

  1. Gilbert Raymond says:

    It is important to realize a few things:
    1) Not all waterless urinals are the same.. Some designs allow you to empty the trap and refill it with solution. This greatly reduces the frequency of trap raplacements. What you will usually find is the waterless urinals that allow refillable traps to be more costly initially, but cheaper to maintain over time.
    2) The flexible traps are not disallowed to protect business interests, they are disallowed by code to protect health. Testing of these flexible traps proved that in only a few weeks, a build-up of solids prevented the traps from sealing adequately, thus allowing poisonous sewer gases to enter the building. As a code official and green advocate, I hope that someday a mechanical trap is invented that reliably works. As of yet, none exist.
    3) There are many waterless urinals that have been working perfectly well for more than 10 years. Buyer beware! Some makes and models are much better than others.

  2. Great Comments Gilbert. I totally agree with you but am not familiar with waterless urinals with other types of trap systems. Care to name a few that you have seen and that do not require more money to maintain than they save in water usage?

  3. waterlessco says:

    Hello,

    Well, I certainly hear and understand your frustration. And as a business owner am horrified to see a response like that from a manufacturer!

    Some manufacturers in our industry have a business model based on the old Kodak camera company. That business model was to provide the consumer with very inexpensive cameras knowing that their real source of steady income will come from developing the Kodak film and not the camera. With the no-water urinal you have installed, that steady stream of income is his trap insert. Apparently, it sounds like this is what happened to you.

    I see someone has already responded to your comments by indicating that not all no-water urinals are the same. Although the essence of the technology is similar, as is the goal–to save water and money–how they do it varies.

    For instance and quite ironically, some of the least expensive trap inserts last the longest. Some cost less than ten dollars and can last up to six months depending on usage. Not to be critical of a competitor, but the system you selected does require the use of some of the most expensive trap inserts in the industry and many end users do find they only last a couple of months.

    Further, some trap inserts are also far easier to maintain and replace. This can also help reduce the costs of a no-water urinal system.

    As unfortunate as it is, I believe your experience can help others, and the message I hear is for facility managers to do their homework. Make sure you know all the facts, including how much the inserts cost,how long they should last and what kind of customer service can be expected, before selecting a system. Check with your peers and find out their experiences. Call on different manufacturers and distributors and try to compare the systems available.

    As the oldest manufacturer of Waterless urinals we hear stories like this unfortunately frequently but can say fortunately not ours. Please let me know if we can be of assistance to you and help you through your dilemma.

    Klaus Reichardt, CEO and Founder of Waterless Co Inc.
    http://www.waterless.com

    • Excellent Comments Klaus,
      Please, let us(the Blog) be a platform for you to tell us the best waterless urinal technology, from your company, I hope, or others. What should I do and what can I expect to pay for this up front and continuing. BTW – it is so nice to hear from the CEO of a waterless urinal company that doesn’t act like a 1st grader.

    • Holy mackerel, I just cruised your website and noticed that the insert cartidges for your urinals are only $7. I could have avoided all of this for $28/year. ouch.

  4. Really appreciate your comments and, if I may, as I was the inventor for waterless urinals 25 years ago, it was always my intent to come up with a very simple and very cost efficient system. That way facilities can afford it plus it becomes ever more cost effective as water and sewer rates rise. With what you have gone through, like to offer you a free urinal and a year’s worth of supply. Like to do that to not only show the difference in the system but I think your situation has highlighted some things in the industry in general – products that may not work as advertised or are costly to operate or offer little or no customer service. With the general state of water in the US and the rest of the world plus the increased cost to transport water to its endpoints for consumption, non-water urinals are truly one of the most effective ways to preserve water resources. Pls contact me for the above and look forward to speaking with you. Forgive my long blog 🙂

    • Wow, I am flummoxed. I would love to accept your offer but I cannot think of anything that I can do for you except talk about what you have done. I don’t know if you have visited our website(www.myearthboundhome.com), but I will make sure that I insert a link for your company in our links page and in our description for the Bluebird Residence and post this story in our blog. I also give about 20 talks a year to public groups including homeowners, architects, building officials, other contractors and the like. My talks are all about green building, either water conservation, indoor air quality, Optimal Value Engineering or the economic reasoning behind green building and I will certainly mention what you have done in these talks, where appropriate. I am just amazed by your kindness and generosity. Thank you very much. My wife and my daughters thank you too.

  5. glenn harris says:

    I am sure a “thorough” background check on Mr. Terry Janssen would shock the hell out of anyone doing business with him! Need to check in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Florida, just to name a few states.

  6. Thank you for your comments about the problems you experienced with the cartridges provided by a couple different manufacturers. It is unfortunate that you received such an unprofessional response from one of the manufacturers. There is an alternative, improved waterless urinal cartridge system that works in most waterless urinals. It costs significantly less than standard cartridges, lasts longer and eliminates maintenance problems. The savings over an extended period of time is even greater, since the same cartridge can be used indefinitely. This is not a mechanical cartridge system, and it does meet IPC standards for a liquid seal. It’s an extremely simple and proven concept, and does not require the use of sealing oil to create an odor barrier. You are welcome to view information about this cartridge system here: http://www.waterwisetech.net/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=558.

  7. Dayton Skei says:

    I have been going around in circles trying to find an adequate waterless urinal option for a few businesses in my area (I work for the local utility). The final dilemma is water-vs-plastic waste. Either we can save tens of thousands of gallons of water every year and have to throw plastic cartridges away, or use water with no plastic cartridges. So I have a few questions that you can feel free to answer. Any suggestions/information would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    1) Many refillable cartridges use a fragrant vegetable oil solution. Could you not buy your own vegetable oil and refill it yourself?

    2) I am trying my best to give these businesses a very cost effective and easy maintenance option…are there any waterless urinals that don’t need any replacements?

    I love conserving water, and its part of my job. I’m just looking for information to pass on to my community that will make everyone happy.

    Thank you in advance!
    Dayton

    • Hi Dayton,
      I gave a current line of thinking as a response to the comment after yours, so please look at this one for what my latest musings on this topic, but i will also comment on your questions.
      1. Yes, absolutely you can use your own vegetable oil. The main advantage of using their oil is that it is colored and fragrant, so it is easy to see in contrast to the urine but it also releasing a “pleasant” odor. Std. vegetable oil may absorb some urine smells and end up smelling not so “pleasant”. You can get both of these things by finding an oil soluble dye and an oil soluble fragrance. These should be fairly easy to locate via a web search, though a “pleasant” odorant may be a personal preference thing.
      2. The answer to this question is a resounding “Not Yet”. The cheapest solution that I have found is the Waterless brand Urinals. The filters are $7, and from what I have seen, they last more than 6 months. If you make your own fluid, and wash them out, like I instruct below, every month or so, they could last a lot longer.
      I also like doing what I can to save water and make everybody aware of the waste that is inherent in our daily lives, so I am glad to help.
      Good luck and thanks.
      dave

  8. mike baird says:

    Any suggestions on what to do for a customer that installed 14 of the eco techs. janssen wont return phone calls and i think he disabled the website. my customer cant get cartridges or bugs. tried to retro fit w/sloan cartridges and they dont fit. Anyone making one that will retrofit the the echotech. THe installs were part of a major remodel at a shopping mall. the oders are only kept down by constant cleaning. we need a solution fast.

    • I had the same exact problem. The whole system is a disaster and I wish I had a great solution that was not replacing all the entire units. I had the Sloan unit that I refit with the EcoTech cartridges, but, as you know, it didn’t work for more than 2 months before i started having problems. I used the bugs from EcoTech, but they didn’t do anything. I am a biochemist by training and i had my doubts about the paraffin embedded bacterial strain that could metabolize the insoluble inorganic uric salts that are the cause of the clogging in all of the waterless urinal systems. I chock it up to yet another lie from EcoTech, when they didn’t do anything to alleviate the clogging.
      So, what to do? I have tried practically everything to get the EcoTech cartridges to work, from acids, to bases, to dilution and mechanical cleaning of the cartridge unit, nothing worked. That is why I switched to the Waterless brand of waterless urinal. Truthfully, I was skeptical at first. But it has been a world of difference. I have been using the same cartridge for the last 7 months and i have not replaced it yet. When it starts smelling, i flood the urinal with about a gallon of hot water, to wash away any precipitated uric salts that may be in there but not attached to the cartridge, and then add the recommended amount of blue liquid on top. I have done this twice in 7 months. When i have to replace the cartridge, it is only 7 dollars, so it is not going to kill me to have to do so once or trice a year.
      As gross as it may sound, I did some experiments with my own urine and noticed that it takes about two months for urine, depending on concentration I am sure, though I didn’t test this, to precipitate. The more the urine is turned over, meaning the more the urinal is used, the less chance there is for a uric acid crystal to nucleate and cause more uric sediment. In short, using the urinal more seemed to delay the onset of uric salts sediment precipitation. Washing the urinal every month or more with a gallon or so or reallyt hot water will also wash away any old residual urine and may dissolve some already precipitated uric salts(water soluble and slightly water soluble compounds have higher solubility in hot water) and would undoubtedly slow uric salt sediment accumulation and therefor prolong the life of the cartridge. The counterpoint to this is then you have to replace the non-volatile blue oil overlay everytime you flush the urinal cartridge, so you will use less cartridges but more of this fluid. I have not yet done the testing and calculation on which what would cost the least, mostly because I don’t have anymore problems anymore with the Waterless brand of urinals.
      I realize I didn’t give you a succinct answer, but I am very happy with the Waterless brand system, and even if it worked only as well as the Sloan/Falcon systems, they are still 1/4 the price so the savings are dramatic. Buying new urinals may seem like real drag, but not as much probably as listening to people complain about the smell all the time. BTW – if it is only the smell that is bothering people and not that the urinals don’t drain, which is much more problematic, then just rinse the cartridge with hot water and overlay with more blue oil.
      Hope this helps.
      dave

  9. Matt Pachnik says:

    I had 2 of the waterless and yes they clog fast from the calcium or whatever it is from urine. What I did was just remove the cartridges and never use them again. Instead I installed a real trap in the plumbing, just like the ones under your bathroom sink. Viola! Rarely smelled, but sometimes I would pour 1/2 oz of bleach in anyways.

  10. yankeeinva52 says:

    I work for a gov’t agency and our buildings have waterless urinals installed. There are many problems with them. 1-Cost of filter cartridges is very prohibitive. 2-The “odor sealant” is clogging up the pipes. 3-The urinals are NOT kept cleaner as they stand with urine on the urinal wall until cleaned. NOT hygenic in my opinion. 4-The cartridges don’t last more than a couple weeks before going non-functional. These urinals may have an application in a desert area or anywhere that water is scarse but I doubt it. I’m trying to get funding to retrofit regular urinals. This technology has a LONG way to go before it is sensible.

  11. Raul says:

    The Ecotrap from waterlees can go into a Sloan or Falcon urinal ???, is it compatible??

    • Yes, that is the $45 dollar question(the cost of the Falcon and Sloan cartridges). Unfortunately, the dimensions of the cartridges for Sloan and Falcon are not published anywhere. The outside diameter of the Waterless urinal is 4 9/16″ at the top lip(which flares out just slightly, maybe 1/32″) and 3 1/16″ tall from the top lip to the bottom, which is beveled in at about a 45* angle for the last 1/2″. If you have a Sloan or Falcon cartridge, measure it and post the dimensions back here to let us all know if they have a chance of fitting the waterless cartridges. Or you could just buy the $6 or $7 cartridge from Waterless and try it. Just remember, the seal has to be good around the cartridge or the sewer gasses will leak out and smell up the bathroom.

      BTW – I am now 8 months into my Waterless brand waterless urinal and it’s first cartridge and it is still flowing quickly. It started to stink about a week ago, so I washed it out with 1/2 gallon of hot water, poured in quickly, to dissolve and rinse out some of the accumulated uric salts that had most likely settled in cartridge, and then added 3 oz. of blue seal solution, and it works fine and has no smell at all. It took about 5 minutes and I have done it three times for this urinal cartridge and it still works great.

      I took a good look at the Waterless cartridge and was surprised by the size of the orifice that allows the urine to escape into the sewer system(seen here: http://www.waterless.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3&Itemid=55). It is 1.5″ in diameter, which is about twice as large as the same structural element in the Falcon and Sloan cartridges(see for yourself: http://www.falconwaterfree.com/flash.htm). Also, the inside of the Waterless urinal looks like just a big open cylinder, so the uric solids are going to have to fill the entire chamber before the cartridge clogs up. The inside of the Sloan/Falcon cartridge is convoluted and very constricted and IMHO, is clogged up by the uric acid accumulation much more quickly than the Waterless cartridges. I have not done flow testing or aggregate blockage testing, but this rough analysis of the two designs is supported by my three years of experience with the two systems. Together, I think that these are the major differences between the Sloan and Falcon Cartridges and those produced by Waterless and what leads to the significant difference between the longevity and performance of the two different cartridge systems.
      This gets us back to the point of which is better, the Sloan/Falcon waterless urinal or the Waterless brand waterless urinal. I think the urinals themselves are probably the same. The real difference is the cartridge design, and this is where the Waterless brand waterless urinal cartridge is the clearly better product. The Sloan and Falcon Cartridges could be redesigned to allow a better performance and a longer lasting cartridge, like the Waterless brand cartridges, but from what I have heard in the industry, the cartridge replacement is a cash cow for Sloan/Falcon and is where they make the bulk of their profits from the waterless urinal systems. In a purely business profitability line of reasoning, they are doing exactly the right thing, maximizing profit. Really, why would they do something different, when they are making millions of dollars a year doing the same old thing.

  12. My company is about to launch Ecobug into the USA, which is a highly concentrated bioblock urinal insert that has been used extensively for 10 years by the Ministry of Defence in the UK and is now proving very successful with McDonalds, KFC and Heathrow Airport. It still requires one flush per day, but costs $25-$30 plus freight and taxes per year per urinal/trough with no major conversion costs. We are now moving towards this system rather than general waterless because it has none of the issues associated with waterless systems. Please let me know if I can help.

  13. brian stahl says:

    I purchased the same one for bar and had similar complaints. I ditched the green bugs and just.cleaned it and ran water.down it every day. It lasted more than a year but it is definately not a lifetime product

  14. Rick says:

    This Terry Janssen felow is known for behavior as such. I bought a shower head from him and it was garbage!!! Cost me nearly $100 and looked like something that was run over by a semi truck. I did some research on him and I found out that he was sued by a company called Bricor for making knock offs of their products. Do not beileve me go to Bricor’s website and take a look at their shower head called the b100 max & their aerator: http://bricor.com/products/low-flow-aerator/

    Now go to this dirt balls website and scroll down untill you come across his aerator and shower head: http://www.ecotechwater.com/Products/products.html

    Bottom line I paid $100 for garbage!!! When I confronted this A hole about the situation he just laughed at me.

  15. Yves Perrier says:

    Does anyone have any experience with EcoUrinal Rubbermaid. It is used in Montreal for about 6 months and commercial customers seem very satisfied for the moment.
    It is technology Ecotechwater which was purchased and modified by Rubbermaid.
    It works without liquid with enzymes cartridges that must be replaced once a month.

    Yves Perrier
    architect

  16. Rob says:

    There is no lifetime cartridge. We got 14 months out of the Smarty Bee (from USA not Mexico) No sealant. No oder. Under $30. Can pour water into cartridge and use a plunger. We saved $130 per urinal last year!

  17. Chuck Stilphen says:

    T.E. “Terry” Janssen is a scumbag asshole. I purchased two urinals from him in 2009 via a distributor he sent me to, his distributor owed him money so terry starts to threaten me that if i don’t pay (twice) for the urinals he will sue me, finally his distributor paid him and he dropped his threats. Recently after purchasing some “ecobugs” from him he threatened to send me to collections when my bill pay returned the check I sent him cause he moved, (not my fault) this guy is a real piece of shit and his products suck. Ive had nothing but problems with his urinals and parts over the years, I’m tearing out my waterless urinals.

  18. I completely agree with some of the comments made against Waterless Urinals, having said that I still stand by the view that it is CRIMINAL to install waterflush urinals as they not only waste tones of water, but also induce the reaction of splitting uric acid into ammonia and urates/salts. Thus leaving the washroom smelly, unhygienic and drain pipes clogged. One should try URIDAN or AQVANO to change ones mindset regarding waterless urinals.

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